Summer Fun at Whiskeytown Lake, Near Redding

By Molly Barber

Summer is here and the days are brighter, longer, and warmer. If you’re one of those people who enjoy hiking, camping, kayaking, swimming, boating, fishing or just nature in general, I have the perfect place for you; Whiskeytown Lake.

Whiskeytown Lake is a National Recreational Area located about 10 miles North-West of Redding, CA. The Recreational Area consists of 39,000 acres surrounding the lake. This area is home to four different waterfalls and over 70 miles of hiking trails. The lake itself hosts numerous types of fish including both German brown and rainbow trout, large and smallmouth and spotted bass, Sacramento Pike, catfish, Kokanee salmon, and different varieties of sunfish.

The lake was created as part of the Central Valley Water Project and was dedicated by President Kennedy in 1963. It seems to be named after the little town that once occupied the area but no one really knows for sure. There are two popular stories attributed to how the town got its name.

whiskeytownfallsThe first story talks about a miner in the gold-rush who dropped a barrel of whiskey from his mule. The barrel rolled down into a nearby creek, breaking on the rocks and pouring into the river. This river came to be known as Whiskey Creek and the town that grew next to it became known as Whiskeytown.

The second piece of folklore states that the town got its name because of its reputation that the miners who lived there could drink a barrel of the hard alcohol a day. No matter which story you prefer, I think you’d agree that Whiskeytown is a pretty interesting place.

The lake itself is offers a lot of great opportunities, from boating to hiking and everything in between. Whiskeytown Lake owes its popularity to it’s clear water. It is said that visibility of the water reaches 30 foot deep. Certain beaches like Swim Beach offer boat rentals, kayaking, and stand up paddleboards. They also have lifeguards on duty from Memorial Day until Labor Day, and if you don’t want to pack snacks, there’s a convenience store. Other boat marinas around the lake also offer types of watercraft rentals.

Besides spending the day on the water, the hiking trails around the lake are something to be seen and are open all year around. Not only can you see the fall colors and spring wildflowers, but you can also check out the four different waterfalls within the area year round.

Whiskeytown.Boulder Creek Falls - 24 Mar 2015 (2)If hiking isn’t your thing you can also mountain bike or horseback ride on the land.

Because the lake is a National Recreational Area there are lots of cool opportunities offered to the public. If you are interested in stargazing, they offer Star Party. This event takes place two nights a month throughout the summer and is hosted by NPS Sky Rangers. At the event you’ll be able to get a better view of the night sky through the powerful telescopes of the Shasta Astronomy club. You’ll also hear the stories of the constellations and participate in activities. For dates or information on the Star Party you can go to

You can also participate in the different kayaking programs offered. There are daily tours from Brandy Creek Beach at 9:30 am seven days a week and also 5:30 pm tours Saturday through Thursday from June 11 to September 5. The tours usually last about two and a half hours and are guided. On the tours you hear about the, “cultural and natural values of the park” while you paddle with a partner in a tandem kayak.

Also through the kayak program you can participate in the Moonlight Kayak. This event is going on June 15-19 at 8:00 pm, July 14-18 at 8:00 pm, and August 13-17 at 7:30pm. The rangers lead this paddle, which lasts about two and a half hours and it is recommended that you call two weeks in advance for reservations.

brandycreekfallsThere are Junior Ranger Kayak programs in which parents are paired with their children. The Junior Ranger Kayak programs start June 13. This is held at Brandy Creek Beach Monday and Thursday at 1:30 pm and typically lasts an hour and a half. Monday is more for children three to six, while Thursday is a little more intense for seven to twelve year olds.

The park also offers Special Access Kayak programs Friday evenings in July and August. The program usually lasts two hours and has been developed for individuals with special needs. The visitors will be paired with an “experienced volunteer” for this kayak session. If you are interested in this or want more information you can get ahold of ranger Breanna Corp at +1.530.242.3451.

So this summer do yourself a favor and visit Whiskeytown Lake. You can go to the National Park Service website to get information on hiking trails and the events mentioned that are put on through the park. You can also visit to get an idea of different opportunities offered. So whether you want to use the lake recreationally or the land surrounding it, take a day or two and enjoy the beauty that is Northern California.